Trip Report: Lone Peak 2014

Lone Peak. Often considered the most difficult non-technical summit in Utah, and the northernmost of the 7 peaks of Utah County. I’ve had my eye on it since I first started hiking, as had my sister Mica, who originally hooked me to hiking when we did King’s Peak in 2012.

We decided to do the Schoolhouse Springs trail, which approaches Lone from the south end, instead of the more common Jacob’s Ladder trail from the north. We relied primarily on this post as our guide. I’ll try to enhance the information given there.

Here’s Google Maps pin of the trailhead. You continue past the pinned point up the dirt road until you get to the water tank, where there’s a gate titled “Lehi.” There’s some parking room on the left right as you see the tank.

The trail between the trailhead and the First Hamongog is, essentially, a dirt road. Wide and obvious. There’s even some signs discouraging trespassing at a couple places where you may be tempted to diverge. It’s a pretty steady two miles up switching back on this road, and there’s only one place to definitely be aware of:

Gate to watch out for. Take the shortcut!

Gate to watch out for. Take the shortcut!

When you see this gate, turn right before going through the gate and go up the “shortcut” path there. Also, as you get back onto the road, take a look around for some kind of mark to help you get back on this shortcut on the way back. We happened to take the shortcut on the way up, and realized how useful it was on the way back when we missed it. You go up and down on the dirt road for a significantly longer stretch than the simple uphill shortcut here.

You’ll notice the Lone Peak Wilderness sign and, well, a large meadow (which is what hamongog means) when you arrive at the first hamongog. Continue on the trail and take the left on the fork within the hamongog. This first stretch took us around an hour; we weren’t going at a particularly fast pace, but we were consistent.

The stretch between the first and second hamongog is quite a bit less pleasant than the first stretch. The trail is now a thin single-lane trail, and isn’t terribly well cleared. Quite a few little white bugs got all up in our faces. It’s less steady, as well. The views get better and you start to see more of the summit area, mostly the west summit face.

It took us a bit more than an hour on this trail to get to the Second Hamongog. You’ll know you’re there as you start to see cleared areas below pines with huge rocks and campsite-like areas. Looks like an awesome lost boys type area, and right after it will be the huge field. This is where we camped for the night.

Panorama of our camping area, Second Hamangog.

Panorama of our camping area, Second Hamangog.

Now comes the fun part–reaching the summit. We went left at the fork in the Second Hamongog, though it seems there are many ways to approach the west summit face, and you could likely get there going right as well. The left fork pretty quickly leads to a drainage of sorts; at least when we went at the end of June, a decent amount of water was flowing, and it was beautiful. However, it was also beastly. Very strong slope the entire way, and while there is a trail of sorts on the left side of the drain, it’s mostly just a matter of heading up.

As you get closer to the base of the west summit face, you’ll want to start heading right. As you do you’ll see the trail ascend more gradually between the west summit face and what’s apparently referred to as “Question Mark Wall” towards the east. You’re just climbing at this point; more and more granite the further up you go. There’s not really any sort of defined trail, so it seems most people will end up at different points along the saddle. We kept going left and left, as we read that’s the direction you turn once you hit the saddle anyway, and ended up not having to travel along the saddle almost at all. There was some snow patches we had to work our way around this early in the season.

You’ll certainly know the saddle once you reach it. Very intense dropoff on the north/east side. Start heading left; it’s not an intense ridgeline the rest of the trip up. You’ll get to an area with much less granite, and a steady steep slope that leads to the south summit.

The view is incredible. You can see both Utah and Salt Lake valleys. It’s worth noting that from the Schoolhouse Springs trail, you’ll reach the south summit first…and the north summit is around 25ft higher. However, the ridge between them I have lovingly nicknamed “NOPE ridge.”

NOPE Ridge.

NOPE Ridge.

My sister and I both have far too much pride to not have attempted to make it across, but after a extremely scary experience where she almost passed out and ended up panicking to a degree, we turned around. Make no mistake: this ridge is no trivial jaunt. It’s a class 4 hike, especially if you follow the mountain goat trail that we attempted on the east side, below the ridge proper (apparently if you just cruise along the top, it’s easier, but there is a 90 degree drop-off on the west side…). A couple very experienced hikers cruised across it in no time right before us, but we found out later one of them has multiple broken/cracked vertebrae in his spine from falls (just a gauge of what type of person makes it across this ridge).

The trip from Second Hamongog to the summit took 3.5 hours…very much the most challenging portion, around double the steepness of the other two sections (a 32% slope). Overall, the hike via Schoolhouse Springs is 5 miles, gaining 5,500ft, giving an average slope of 21%. This is about the same slope as Olympus, and not quite the ~40% of Provo Peak, but drastically longer than either of those–and I agree with the claim that it’s the hardest non-technical hike in Utah. I’ve only done around a dozen, but that has included most of the biggest. We didn’t go the type of quick pace I’m used to, probably a more standard pace for non-consistent hikers, and total hike time was probably about 10-11 hours. The hikers that came right after us that cruised across the ridge claimed it took them less than 3 hours to the top; I’d guess around 3.5 both ways would be a more typical time for my usual pace.

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